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A Journey Backwards : A pleasant flight delay

【明報專訊】Flight delays are among the most common travel hassles these days. Ironically, its expected frequency makes a perfect excuse for airlines to handle the situation carelessly. In cities like Shanghai that regularly tax their travellers' time, airlines rarely make any effort to impress their passengers. I remember falling asleep on a flight only to wake up two hours later and find the aircraft exactly where it was. Everyone was clueless and restless since the member of staff did not bother to explain the situation. To me, the incident marked the downfall of an airline in the major league.

From time to time, badly handled flight delays can turn into a scene. During my brief internship at a Chinese airport, a group of delayed travellers organised sit-in mass chanting demanding an explanation. Check-in for other flights was made impossible, since the major pathway to the counters was blocked. If the use of social media had been as rampant as today, this would no doubt have become a public-relations disaster. At that time, it created enough jeering for the poor ground manager to handle.

Recently, a Thai budget airline managed to win the hearts of all its passengers. On a flight scheduled to leave at night, passengers had to be evacuated from the aircraft due to technical problems. From there, passengers who had a connection flight to catch were redirected to immediate departure flights. Miraculously, the airline arranged another aircraft to serve the rest of the passengers within two hours of the original departure time. On their way out, everyone received a thoughtful dinner box to appease their howling stomachs. Swiftness was second to the sincere attitude put forward by the staff, who patiently explained themselves and took care of everyone in the room.

How a flight company handles daily delays has become the yardstick of its service. In this regard, it is as much a matter of attitude as it is about resources.

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